Tag Helena

Wild West Outlaw, Ike Gravelle

Here’s an outlaw story about Helena, Montana that I’d never heard before.

This Ike character took on the railroad company and hatched a plan to hold the rail lines around Helena ransom. Pay up or they blow up. Of course the rail companies didn’t pay up. So Ike here started to blast the tracks in random places, trying to be taken seriously. Well, they did take him seriously. But they didn’t ever pay him.

He was a one man operation and so was always going to be near the scene of the crime. The law caught up to him. He was spotted preparing to lay another bomb by a rail worker who followed him home.


Upon being detained, the suspect was indignant, insisting that he was an honest rancher named “J.H. Plummer.” The suspect was brought to the Lewis and Clarke County Jail, where he was positively identified as Issac “Ike” Gravelle, a criminal well-known in Helena. Defiant as ever, Gravelle denied his identity even in the face of his former penitentiary warden, a Mr. McTague, who wasn’t one bit fooled.

Someone stashed a gun for him in the courthouse and shot his way out into the street, but he didn’t make it very far. He either killed himself while cornered or he bled out from another man’s bullet.

Either way, it was a violent end to a violent man’s life.

I’m reading so much about violence in the world these days and I find myself moved to outrage by modern tales of horror. Reading about Ike Gravelle made me wonder if through the lens of time, all violence can be transformed into something romantic or quaint. Is violence always a part of a founding mythology of a place? Why do I get excited to read that this happened in my home town? Wild West mythology fascinates me but on its face it’s actually horrible! If this happened last week wouldn’t I feel only fear and outrage?

The Sleeping Giant

The following is a transcript of a story I told for some 5-8 year olds in East Helena at the very end of 2015.

I’m going to tell you a story about right here. It’s a story from a long time ago, before we had houses around here, before we had roads around here. But there were still a lot of people who lived here. And one day they heard a sound.

Boom boom boom! BOOM!

Sleeping-GiantIt was so loud, everybody was so scared. There was an old man who said, “I know what that sound is, that’s the sound of the snow falling off the trees.” Everybody looked at him and said, the snow falling off the trees? It’s spring all the snow is melted, there’s no snow to..”

Boom Boom Boom!

A little old lady said “I know what that is, that’s the sound of buffalo running through the valley, it’s so loud it sounds like thunder.” Everybody looked at her. “The buffalo don’t come in the springtime, everybody knows they run in the fall…”

Boom Boom Boom!

All along standing in the back there was a little girl and she was looking to the east, beyond the mountains to the horizon.

Short Film Helena

A few weeks after I got home to Montana my friend Vincent Ma told me about his short film project. He’s an NYU film student I met years ago on another short film project here in Montana. Now he’s living in Helena and has been boxing at the club in Eagle’s Lounge and thought it would make the perfect setting for his thesis project.

He introduced me to local soon-to-be-pro boxer Ariel Beck, who he was considering for the lead. She had never acted for a camera before so the three of us worked on screen tests. She was serious and eager and after a few hours workshop we we’re both agreeing that she would be great.

I was able to meet with her one more time, along with another Helena boxer, Duran Caferro Jr., for another performance coaching workshop before filming began. It was entirely fun, energizing and exciting work.

The shoot is all done now, here is the article from Sunday’s paper about it all. There is even a brief mention of the acting coach. Hey, that’s me!

Check out Vincent’s Vimeo page for great footage from recent fights.

UPDATE: helena.craigslist.com

$675 / 2br – Central Location (740 Broadway) (map)

Date: 2011-08-23, 11:15AM MDT
Reply to: hous-vzptk-2548019783@craigslist.org

Bright, sunny and clean 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment centrally located between downtown, the capital complex and the hiking trails. Washer/Dryer hookups in building, no smoking or pets. $675 + utilities and $675 security deposit. Available September 1st – Call Colleen @406-439-7461

Broadway at Raleigh (google map) (yahoo map)

  • Location: 740 Broadway
  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

PostingID: 2548019783

Thanks for posting my available apartment for me ma!

Frayed Sew Online

Helena’s one and only consignment craft boutique and best place to find a birthday present for my sister, just launched a brand new website. If you have never been up to Reeder’s Alley you’ve missed out on a really special nook in Helena’s history and a great part of town.